Women’s soccer advances to NCAA Round of 16

Kristina Alvarado ’19 had two shots on goal in the NCAA tournament game against Wentworth on Saturday at home.  Photo courtesy of Sports Information.
Kristina Alvarado ’19 had two shots on goal in the NCAA tournament game against Wentworth on Saturday at home. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

On Sunday, women’s soccer (17–0–2, 9–0–2 in the NESCAC) defeated Wentworth 1–0 on a second-half goal from Alison Lu ’20 to advance to the third round of the Div. III championships for the fourth straight season.

The home side dominated the possession, but it took until the second half to break through against its resolute opponents. The game’s lone goal came from the Ephs’ leading scorer, Lu, as she dispatched her 12th goal of the season into the back of the net in the 68th minute.

The move started in the midfield as Kristina Alvarado ’19 carried the ball forward in attack, eventually finding the feet of Kristi Kirshe ’17 at the top of the Leopard penalty area. Kirshe breached the back line with a beautiful first time through-ball to match Lu’s run. Lu slipped between a pair of defenders and slotted the ball past Micaela Robinson in net to give the Ephs their breakthrough.

Though they eventually got their goal and ended up on the right side of the result, the Ephs went without a goal in the first 45 minutes for the third consecutive game. The Ephs got off to a good start, creating a chance that almost paid off in just the fourth minute of play.

After a strong build-up through the midfield, Natasha Albaneze ’18 took the ball to the end-line and sent a low cross into the center of the penalty area to the feet of co-captain Audrey Thomas ’17, who toe-poked a shot toward the goal that required a save from Robinson.

The next goal-scoring chance came when the Ephs won a corner in the 17th minute. Albaneze delivered the ball from the left corner, arching it directly into the back of the net, seemingly scoring a goal. However, the referee blew her whistle for an Eph attacker pulling Robinson’s jersey, preventing the keeper from making the save, which nullified the goal. The women continued to push forward and create opportunities. Kirshe had another chance for Williams 12 minutes later.

Lu rose to meet a cross from the right with her head, nodding it down toward Kirshe at the top of the area, but her shot  went off the crossbar.

In the second half, the Ephs picked up where they had left off in the first and had a handful of chances to score before the goal finally came 22 minutes in. After Lu’s goal, the Ephs held onto the ball and shut the game down.The win was the women’s 13th clean sheet of the season.

On Saturday, the women overcame a sluggish first half to defeat Elms 3–0, with goals from Alvarado, Natalie Turner-Wyatt ’19 and Evan Gancedo ’18 on an assist from Thomas.

Gancedo’s tally came after a period of futility for the women despite complete control of possession and the flow of the game. The Eph’s second goal came 11 minutes after Gancedo’s goal when, finally breaking down the otherwise perfect Elms offside trap, Alvarado went into the left side of the penalty area. She cut inside on her stronger foot, held off a defender, and belted a ball to the top-right corner of the goal.

Before the Blazers could recover, Turner-Wyatt shot another ball towards goal to culminate a strong move and move the score to 3–0, sealing the win for the Ephs. Although the second half of the game was strong for the Ephs, the first half proved to be more of a struggle. Regardless, the Ephs pulled through despite the low conversion rate on shots which the women will look to improve as they continue in the NCAA tournament, as opponents become tougher and shots and ball possession will be harder to control for long periods.

With the defeat, the NECC Champion Blazers’ impressive conference-winning season finally came to a conclusion.

With the wins this weekend, the Ephs secured their spot in the NCAA Tournament third round, which will be held on Cole Field Saturday against Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins comes off a 4–0 win against Christopher Newport and has rolled to a 17–2–2 record, highlighted by an unblemished conference record. The game will kick off at 11:00 a.m. If the women win this game, they will continue their season and continue play against the winner of the contest between Messiah and Middlebury in the Elite 8. The women defeated Middlebury 2–1 earlier this season.

“We’re excited to play in the round of 16 on Cole field,” Head Coach Michelyne Pinard said.  “Johns Hopkins is a formidable opponent and we know we have to be at our best to beat them.  What a terrific challenge and opportunity as we near the end of a terrific season that this team has put together.  I’m excited to see what we are capable of this weekend.”